The teetering Eurozone and the unstable global economy are the biggest issues facing the world today, said business, academic and governmental leaders this week. Following close behind, however, was resource scarcity, which ranked No. 4 among the top 10 global trends leaders named in the Global Agenda Survey, run by the World Economic Forum Network of Global Agenda Councils, and released Tuesday. Although the list was mostly dominated by political and economic concerns, some key sustainability issues were at the top of leaders’ minds. Climate change also made it into the top 10, although the timing of the survey – which was taken before Hurricane Sandy hit New York City – may have kept climate issues from climbing higher on the list, which captures the opinions, insights and expertise of the 900 global experts here in Dubai for the Summit on the Global Agenda.
Protectionism, keeping the resources for yourself and maybe your neighbour – is that today still a considered strategy? At the World Resources Forum, the answer was clear. The energy supply chain today is more international than ever before. Countries are more interdependent than ever before. But countries are still looking at energy in terms of national self-reliance.
With the Rio+20 conference right around the corner, organizations, NGOs, businesses, governments are all getting ready to discuss issues in sustainable development and growth. How to make it meaningful? For the World Economic Forum, (WEF) it means breaking the mold of traditional inter-governmental discussions and laying the path towards a new era of global business, global economics and environmental management. An interview with Domic Waughray, Senior Director and Head of Environmental Initiatives at the WEF led me to the deep-seated point of what Rio+20 and the WEF have in common: finding the steps to practical growth and healthier living for the global population. <<Listen to the interview below>>
The way environmental capital is being consumed from population growth and increases in consumption means we have no other choice but to branch out and find new ways of consuming, producing and living.
The Nile is the world’s longest river. It is shared between Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (See map below). Except for South Sudan, all of the above countries are members of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) – a cooperative partnership formed in 1999. Six upstream members of the NBI signed a “Cooperative Framework Agreement” that includes Articles addressing issues such as water allocation. One can imagine that such a framework is needed to assist water management efforts between so many nations.
When I meet up with David Zetland, he’s chatting up two Forum attendees over complimentary drinks and light hors d’ouvres from the Brazilian Pavilion at Parc Chanot’s Palais Phoceen. Usually the center of attention by virtue of a lightning quick wit and polymathic knowledge, Zetland is skewering a newly-formed NGO designed to help investment banks and other financiers assess risks associated with climate change… “Which makes perfect sense,” proclaims a sardonic Zetland, “because NGO’s are so adept at evaluating investment risks and investment banks have no idea.” (more…)
Food production uses large amounts of water. To be more precise, agriculture accounts for 70 percent of global water use. As the world’s population grows, increasing amounts of food, and therefore increasing amounts of water, are needed. At the same time, there are growing concerns about global and regional water scarcity. The question arises then: how can we use water optimally to help ensure food security? There are a variety of technologies that can improve the situation and provide sufficient food for growing populations. Chen Lei, from the Ministry of Water Resources in China, spoke at the WWF about some of the technological solutions that China has utilized. These solutions have enabled his country to feed 21% of the population with only 6% of the world’s land. China promotes the use of improved seeds, improved fertilizers, dry farming, and drip irrigation. While these are valuable technological tools, there are a multitude of other non-technological tools that can be used to address broader issues through institutional or political change. At the World Water Forum in Marseille France, a session on Wednesday, March 14 discussed this topic in a panel titled, “Contributing to food security by optimal use of water”. Speakers from China, Mali, France, India, Nestle, among others, contributed their own experiences and ideas to the discussion. Growing Demand For Food
There is a growing demand for food globally. Alexander Muller from the Natural Resources and Environment department at FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) set the scene for the discussion. The global population is growing, he said. It is expected that 60 percent more food will be needed to feed the additional three billion people that will exist by the end of the century. In order to produce this food, increasing amounts of water will need to be consumed. However, the barriers to producing greater amounts of food continue to grow. One barrier is decreasing resources in the face of a growing population.
Abdoulkader Issoufou is working with Reseau Projection, with a group of 26 other young water professionals, to edit and translate the daily newsletter of the World Water Forum. Abdoulkader is from Niger, is otherwise employed by Save the Children, and runs the NGO (non-governmental organization) Ong Tassa. His story is different from many of his Reseau Projection colleagues, who are Americans, Europeans, and others from around the world. His reasons for engaging in the World Water Forum are hard-hitting and have affected his family for his whole life. He has come to the Forum to help create real solutions to water crises in the world.
Climate change, population growth, urbanization, and different economic drivers will all increase the demand for water in the future. By 2025 and beyond, the water crisis will reach catastrophic levels. In order to create effective solutions to the water issues that may arise past 2025, people from public and private sectors must work together. The question of future water security is far too serious to be left to disputes. On the morning of March 14, 2012, hundreds of people from all over the world gathered to attend the High Level Panel: Future of World’s Water Beyond 2025. This high level panel included eminent personalities from both the public and private sector.
If we continue to use water at the today’s rate, 2/3 of the global population will live in water stressed areas by 2025. The regional, national, and international implications of this could be devastating because water is a trans-boundary resource; upstream activities affect downstream populations and watersheds span counties, regions and country lines. Increasing water scarcity from climate change, population and consumption growth causes competition for water among users such as industry, communities and governments. This competition and conflict can already be seen in certain areas around the world. How can we begin to solve this issue of water scarcity? On Monday, I attended the introductory session for Promoting Water Efficiency: Pressure and Footprints sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme. Representatives from Water Footprint Network, Stockholm International Water Institute, PepsiCo, and World Resources Institute were on hand to discuss water efficiency and management practices. Here are some highlights from the introductory session.
Everybody who knows current European environmental policy could not be surprised by Janez Potočnik’s speech. The Sloveninan economist and European Commissioner for the Environment opened the WRF 2011 conference emphasizing the need for better resource-efficient economy. Potočnik started with a situation summary, as traditional with his speeches:
“The world’s population is increasing by around 200 000 people a day… By 2050 demand for food, feed and fibre is forecast to increase by 70% and yet 60% of our ecosystems underpinning these resources are already degraded… In the EU today we use some 16 tonnes of materials per person each year, of which 6 tonnes become waste…”
Let us imagine a simple ecosystem. A seed germinates in the presence of sunlight and water. It becomes a tall tree while taking up nutrients from the soil with the help of other microorganisms. When the tree dies, its degradation releases the nutrients back to the soil, which are taken up by other growing trees and other micro-organisms, until they die and release the nutrients again … You will find many such closed loops in the nature. Now imagine that our society is also an ecosystem. We take up our resources – fuel, water, etc.